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Hawkeye volleyball roster grows to 17

BY MOLLY IRENE OMSTEAD | AUGUST 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa volleyball’s Bethany Yeager played 122 of 123 sets at libero in 2011, while the three other defensive specialists totaled only 66 sets combined on the season.

Nikki Dailey was the team’s only setter; after the early retirement of injured Paige Stevens during preseason in 2011, Dailey carried the burden of setting all 33 matches, 123 sets, and all 4,428 attack attempts.

Yeager and Daily were overworked throughout the 2011 season, which ended with an 11-22 overall record, 1-19 in the conference.

And that’s not even mentioning the workload they had to handle on the court in practice.

But they have help this season. The Iowa volleyball team grown for the third-straight year — losing three seniors but welcoming four freshmen and two transfer students to bring the roster up to 17 players.

Freshman Anne Yanda will share the setter position with Dailey, and fellow classmates Julianne Blomberg and Kathleen Daily (no relation) will join Yeager as defensive specialists.

Nikki Dailey said that in-game fatigue wasn’t an issue last season, but the “wear and tear of the whole season” was a struggle.

“Last year, every single drill was me, every single time, with no breaks ever. It’s nice to just catch a break once in a while,” she said. “But from another perspective, I like having someone else in my position that I can take under my wing and mentor.”

She said she’s a strong believer in the “if you can teach it, you know it the best” theory, so being able to show Yanda her techniques and strategies is improving her game as well.

Yeager agrees that teaching the younger players who share her position makes her a better libero because she’s being held to a higher standard to set an example.

“It reminds us, too, that if we’re going to be telling someone to do something, we better well be doing it, too,” she said. “It’s a great reminder for us to do our jobs [on the court] as well.”

The influx of rookie Hawkeyes doesn’t only affect setters and defensive specialists. Having more bodies on the court helps the entire team train.

Iowa’s roster included only 11 players in 2009, so assistant coaches Jason Allen and Ben Boldt had to fill in so the Hawkeyes could run an entire 12-player scrimmage. The squad grew to 13 in 2010, then 14 in 2011, but having a full 17 players in practice makes a difference for game-situation drills and scrimmages.

Sophomore hitter Alex Lovell said the Hawkeyes’ practices have been “running very smoothly” because they have enough players to switch in and out of position spots.

And it’s not easy to get playing time any more, which really just makes the practices every more beneficial.

“The reps, you have to fight for your reps now, so it definitely improves the mindset on the court,” Lovell said. “Everyone wants to be the person to earn those reps.”

Defensive specialist and the team’s lone senior Allison Straumann only played in 35 sets last season and tallied 36 digs. But she’s not intimidated by all the competition coming into her position this season.

“Maybe you’re not getting as many reps in practice as you’re used to … But you have people fighting for spots, which is just making everybody better,” she said. “There’s always going be a winner, and there’s always going to be a loser — there’s only six spots on the court, which makes us compete against each other but remember that we’re teammates, too.”


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